Anthony Sinclair’s article gives information on fossil species and their historical connection. It speaks of a newly discovered species, Homo Iongi, and its closeness to the human species. There is also a comparison between Homo ILongi and Neanderthals to explain why the former may be the human species closest relative.
Evaluation of the Identification of Homo Longi
Upon discovery, the Chinese, British and Australian researchers established that Homo Iongi could be human’s closest relatives and not Neanderthals, as it has always been known. It came after the Phylogeny family tree was generated and related the two species to modern humans. Sinclair says human evolution regards Neanderthals as human’s closest relatives because of the ancient DNA analysis that reveal the similarities. Anthropology textbooks are of a similar opinion, stating Neanderthals are alike enough to humans to be considered near relatives. The assumption that the entire human evolution process underwent the Neanderthal stage gave rise to the relationship (Relethford p.170). The belief points to the anatomical similarities.
Traces of Neanderthal DNA in humans also justified the close relationship. A suggestion from the Neanderthal genome draft sequence was that Neanderthals account for between 1% and 4% of human ancestry (Relethford p.169). It was believed that they were a distinct subspecies of humans who never strayed far enough from the line to be classified as a separate species, and they could interbreed with modern humans. As a result, Neanderthal ancestry can be found in some modern human populations. However, surviving DNA cannot give standard grounds for historical relationships as it degrades with time. Other evidence must be used to determine evolutionary relationships. The amount of shared derived features, which indicates evolutionary relatedness, generates the most accurate family tree reconstructions (Relethford p.54). They are mainly information about the shape of fossils (morphology), their age, and their origin.
Homo Iongi’s morphology has enabled the team of researchers to classify the species in the human family tree and consider it the closest relative. The skull characterizes an extinct human species that was previously unknown. Its thick brow ridges were also evident when discovered near Harbin City, drawing its similarity to the human species. The size of their brow ridges was used to understand the relationship between human fossils and modern people (Relethford p.143). Brow ridges were used to compare anatomical similarities.
Sinclair’s article shows there is value in fossils regardless of the date difference from when it was discovered to when it bears meaningful research. Therefore, it is naive to assume that future paleoanthropological studies will be entirely or primarily dependent on ancient DNA instead of fossils. Paleoanthropology is an interdisciplinary discipline that must Consider evidence from various sources, including fossils, archaeology, and archaic DNA (Relethford p.175). Knowledge of human evolution relies heavily on fossil data.
Summary of Major Findings and Their Significance.
The research was able to draw conclusive information about Homo Iongi. The first major finding is the identity of the unidentified extinct human species. Fossils of Homo Iongi were first discovered in North-eastern China near Harbin City, Heilongjiang, in 1933. However, no one figured out what the fossil was, even though it is well preserved. Recent research from China, Britain and Australia unpuzzled the mystery behind the fossil and associated it with the Homo Iongi species. The identification provides a better understanding of how humans evolved (Relethford p.40). Due to the discovery, Homo Iongi has a place among the hominin species.
There is a close relationship between the name and the place the fossil was discovered. The species is named Homo Iongi, which means “dragon river”. The name was proof that it came from the Huangshan rock formation in Harbin City’s upper section. This finding illustrates how the human species spread all over the world (Relethford, p.40). Homo Iongi is connected to other species, except for humans. According to the phylogenetic tree, five previously undiscovered fossils from North-eastern China have been linked to Homo Iongi. Neanderthals are not the closest to the human species. The new revelation distances Neanderthals from being considered our closest relatives, allowing easy comparisons between two species.
New techniques can be used to predict dates in the phylogenetic model. Sinclair mentions that the research on Homo Iongi applied Bayesian tip dating to present older estimates. The technique is new as it is rarely used in evolutionary research. Such a technique can predict species divergence’s potential sequence and age based on morphological and molecular data.
Asia is presently at the forefront of human evolution research. Fossils and scientists from Asia are just now being known because of its vastness from the Harbin cranium. Homo erectus was an important evolutionary phase that led to the emergence of all subsequent human species in Asia. Furthermore, we now know that Homo Iongi originated in Asia.
How the Discoveries Refine our Understanding of Human Evolution
Human evolution aims to provide as much information as possible about past human existence. There is always something new to learn from discoveries and research that give clarity. The public’s understanding of human evolution grows as new discoveries are made. For example, old specimens have been reintroduced to active usage thanks to the employment of new analytical techniques. The research of Homo Iongi shows how it was able to provide older date estimates using new techniques. Past evidence opted for commonly used techniques of evolutionary studies, but researchers could not match the dates of the predicted common ancestors of human lineages with the ones for discovered fossils.
Testing different pieces of evidence is helpful to determine evolutionary relationships, especially family tree construction. Genetic analysis can assist us in constructing a family tree by associating genetically related species to a more common ancestor (Relethford, p.54). The new discovery conducted DNA analysis and established that Homo Iongi is closely related to humans and are in the same family tree. Previous evidence focused on morphology and was unable to identify the species; consequently, it could not construct a family tree.
Paleoanthropologists are required to determine the similarities and differences in DNA, bodily structure, physiology, and behavior between humans and other species. They investigate the origins of the physical characteristics and habits of humans. Additionally, know how evolution shapes people’s abilities, preferences, and limitations. Archeologists are also relevant in the research as they will study the structures of the fossil. They will provide the identity of the fossils, authenticate them in comparison to when it was first discovered and predict dates.
Relethford, John H. 50 great myths of human evolution: understanding misconceptions about our origins. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.
Sinclair, Anthony. “Homo Longi: Extinct Human Species That May Replace Neanderthals As Our Closest Relatives Found in China.” The Conversation, 25 June 2021, https://theconversation.com/homo-longi-extinct-human-species-that-may-replace-neanderthals-as-our-closest-relatives-found-in-china-163328. Accessed 1 Feb. 2022.